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Plus ça change...

Updated: 2018-03-06T04:38:01.074+00:00


Notes from the day job


I know, I know. The neglect this blog suffers is bordering on criminal. I am pondering ways to remedy this, but in the meantime, here's a little snippet from the day job, albeit a few months old. In case you were wondering how I'm spending my time these days. Apologies, but this video can't be embedded, as far as I can work out.

Eye candy from Germany


Fresh from the hand of my friendly postman comes this beauty from my long-time friends and sometimes consulting clients, Seim & Partner, in beautiful Taunusstein. The team there spent quite a bit of time on this labour of love, with access to the underlying data of Greg's Cable Map, in an effort to create a thing of informative beauty, which is also both comprehensive *and* affordable. A copy will only set you back 49.90 plus VAT and postage. Order either via email ( or via phone (+49 6128 609 22 69).

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God bless us, every one!


Merry Christmas, dear reader. I hope the new year ahead holds untold wonders for you. I resolve, once again, to try to post more in 2014, as it marks the 10 year anniversary of this humble bloglet. In the meantime, here's hoping you enjoy the winter religious or secular observance of your choice.

One person has already received his Christmas present, and that's my friend and former colleague Tim McDonald, who is joining magicJack Vocaltec as COO! I first came into contact with Tim 10 years ago, as he was one of the early supporters of my blog. When I was invited to speak at an Eli Noam event at Columbia in late 2004, I got a chance to meet him face-to-face, and was introduced to some other members of his team at Merrill Lynch. Tim became a key advocate of my recruitment to that team, which I finally joined in 2007.

Tim possesses one of the sharpest minds I have encountered, and he is uber-connected in industry, as well as being a helluva nice fellow. I wish him every success in this new role, and I think the company is very fortunate to have him on board. I will follow developments with interest, as the world of VoIP is set to become more interesting in 2014.

My presentation last week in Budapest


Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at a conference hosted in beautiful Budapest by the Hungarian national telecom regulator, NMHH. The theme of the conference, broadly, was whether the telecom sector is once again becoming attractive to investors, and if not, why not and how might regulation play a role in restoring some stability to the sector? I was on a panel with three sell-side equity analysts, but I had determined beforehand to talk about the role of private entrepreneurial capital in changing the status quo in FTTx investment, with a particular focus on Germany and the UK. My presentation begins at 1:02:20. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560">The last few minutes of the video feature an unidentified commenter skewering my analysis of the UK market. He was speaking from the back of the room, and the lighting was such that I couldn't make out at the time who he was, but both the moderator and I came to the conclusion that he must be a BT employee, given the level of defensiveness and irritation evident in his commentary.It turns out that it was Ed Richards of OFCOM. He lambastes me for the "utter nonsense" of suggesting that Spotify or Twitter require FTTH connections. That would be utter nonsense, if I'd actually said that, but I didn't. What I said was that if you live in a post-industrial city in Eastern Germany and you want to start the next Spotify or Twitter, you're going to need to move to Berlin (I was referencing a map which shows a dearth of connectivity >50Mbps outside of Berlin in the eastern half of the country).Maybe I wasn't clear enough, but I was assuming the audience would implicitly understand the fact that start-ups dealing with data-intensive platforms need fast pipes to data centres, and these may not be readily available anywhere except the major cities. I never said, as Ed asserts, that Spotify or Twitter could never have been developed in the UK or Germany because of connectivity issues. My implication was that data-intensive start-ups would naturally gravitate to places where the connectivity and associated infrastructure was conducive, and that as long as this remains concentrated in a few large cities, it just perpetuates the economic disparity between the major hubs and the second tier cities struggling to redefine themselves. Perhaps years of listening to incumbents complaining about their imminent doom leads to a higher propensity towards selective deafness among the regulatory community. I was also apparently too harsh for not recognising what has apparently been a highly successful and widespread UK fibre roll-out. I must have been asleep, because I haven't seen any fibre rolled out in the UK. Just because the ASA allows it to be marketed as "fibre optic broadband" doesn't magically make it fibre. On this basis, we might as well allow bog-standard ADSL to also be called fibre, as the exchanges where the DSLAMs sit are backhauled by fibre. Hell, mobile could be marketed as fibre. The term, as used in the Orwellian context in which it has been cast in the UK, is meaningless, though I fear that saying so might constitute thoughtcrime. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="356" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="" style="border-width: 1px 1px 0; border: 1px solid #CCC; margin-bottom: 5px;" width="427"> James Enck presentation at NMHH conference Budapest, Dec. 2013 from jimiinc [...]

Much money wasted, you have


I know Vodafone's got too much cash these days, but I think they missed a trick here. I can't count the number of times per day that I have to dodge inattentive people on the streets, due to the distraction of naughty texts, Facebook selfies, or YouTube videos of cats playing piano, and I wonder how many unnecessary injuries and physical altercations occur as a result of this sort of scenario. Beer companies don't glorify their product by showing humourous scenes of drunk drivers killing people irresponsibly, so why should Yoda step in to salvage an antisocial hipster behaving stupidly with a Vodafone device? The company could have saved itself some considerable expense by just letting the kid on the scooter head-butt him in the genitals at full speed. I would respect that. Might even tempt me to join Vodafone. Out of contract, I am.

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Misadventures in asset management



This is a BT street cabinet on Townley Road, East Dulwich. It's been open at least five days. Luckily, it appears that the copper thieves we hear so much about haven't ravaged it yet. It's on a stretch of pavement that sees a lot of traffic from school kids, so it's sort of surprising that a curious child, or one with vandalous tendencies, hasn't yanked out a fistful of phone lines. There's a VDSL cabinet a few metres away, so I'm guessing the engineer did some provisioning and forgot to lock up.

Makes me wonder why the M2M brigade haven't created a simple GSM-enabled device with a light meter, which could report hourly. Three consecutive hourly reports of ambient light above a certain threshold could generate a flag to alert the asset management team that the cabinet is most likely open, and a truck roll could be organised.

Another approach could be crowdsourcing. Find two or three dependable people in each urban postcode to walk a designated route covering a number of cabinets every day or so, and report problems, in exchange for free service. Like a kind of broadband neighbourhood watch.

Or just set up a Twitter account, like @OpenBTcabinets.

That is, if anyone cares...

Adventures in Cambodian overhead cabling


Apologies, vestigial mega-uber value readers, for my ongoing lack of output. As usual, I'm involved in some very interesting stuff, which I can't really talk about. What I can share is that I've been doing some consultancy work with a company in Cambodia, and I've observed and photographed the most surreal cabling "solutions" I've ever seen. I wish I'd taken more photos to share with you, but after a couple of days there, the massive snarls of (mostly) fiber overhead become a commonplace sight, and my eye is drawn to all the other amazing sights in this fascinating place.

If you look closely at some of these photos, you'll see PON splitter enclosures, which almost certainly serve customers of one of Phnom Penh's FTTH operators. Yes, you heard me right, FTTH in Phnom Penh, capital of a country where many people earn less than $100 per month. It's a niche product, however, targeted at affluent locals and the burgeoning ex-pat community. How do you fancy paying $225 per month for 4Mbps? Not a power user? How about $115 for 2Mbps? Granted, IP transit is expensive in Cambodia, because of the absence of an undersea cable landing (though that's going to change, and it will be interesting to see how pricing/demand moves in the aftermath), but I think we can guess what the margins must be on these products with pricing like that. This is an interesting conundrum, wherein a superior technology is throttled back to keep opex low, and also to avoid taking the market beyond where it is "ready" to go. I don't mean that Cambodians wouldn't love 1Gbps connections today, but if 512k/1Mbps is the current benchmark, then I assume the commercial guys would question why an operator should force things to evolve dramatically faster than the market really demands?

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If you've got it, flaunt it


Never fear, mega-uber value readers. It's not another lengthy diatribe, just a quick observation.

Yesterday, while working at home on a project for a client, I must have been feeling a bit masochistic, because I decided to switch on Bloomberg Television, to catch up on the news in the financial markets. Once upon a time, my team at Merrill Lynch used to have it on all day, every day, and I guess it makes me feel a bit nostalgic.

Anyway, among the numerous commercials for online training courses to help you "trade like a pro" and forex trading platforms offering individual investors 5:1 leverage on margin (is it still 1999?), I happened to take notice of a commercial from the InvestBulgaria Agency. The pitch was built around reasons someone might want to locate a business in the country. There were all the usual suspects: low corporate tax rate, low labour costs, young workforce with a lot of people speaking a second language, etc.

However, tacked on the end of the list of positives was, "Bulgaria enjoys the eighth fastest internet speeds in the world." Presumably the country is using the Akamai rankings, and while I know there are many out there who would argue that national average peak speeds are potentially a red herring when deciding on where specifically to locate a business, it's still interesting to me. While the InvestBulgaria website's pitch omits a reference to broadband in favour of more detailed economic and financial arguments, I think it's telling that the short TV spot would play the broadband card, if only at the end.

Connectivity may be a marginal factor for many businesses in the grand scheme of things, but for a growing number, I believe it will be their lifeblood, if it isn't already. Any country seeking to attract business formation would only be wise to tout the superior nature of its broadband infrastructure - well, that is, if it actually has anything to talk about.

Less diagnosis, more cure


My previous post could easily be criticised as an example of diagnosis without any proposed remedy, the eternal curse of the analyst and self-proclaimed pundit. However, it was really intended as a starting point, from which some proposals could be explored. So here's my first.As I was looking through BT's shareholder register (as sourced from Bloomberg) in researching the previous piece, a few names popped up which intrigued me, so I scoured the list to find all similar entities (at least those which could be identified - no doubt there are others in nominee accounts or funds which are not visible to me). These were local government authorities and similar organs of government. Whether or not the holdings are all still current is unclear, but, if Bloomberg's data is correct, then at some point over the past 15 months or so, a rather long list of local/regional governmental entities (Isle of Wight County Council, Corporation of London, London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, London Borough of Lambeth, Falkirk CC, Carmarthenshire (Dyfed) CC, Surrey CC, Staffordshire CC, Nottinghamshire CC, Somerset CC, North Yorkshire CC, Warwickshire CC, Kent CC, Shropshire CC, City of Westminster, Northamptonshire CC, Hertfordshire CC, Hampshire CC, Cambridgeshire CC, City of Edinburgh, Middlesborough CC, Derbyshire CC, South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, Lancashire CC, East Riding of Yorkshire, and West Yorkshire Pension Fund) held, between them, 95.28m BT shares. At today's share price, that represents a value of £265m.Invariably, these are held as part of pension schemes, with the fund managers in charge selecting BT for its relatively defensive characteristics and dividend yield. All perfectly natural.However, I can't count the times I have heard economic development people from councils all over the UK complaining about poor connectivity, and the need to pursue another solution in order to differentiate their town/city/county, to attract and retain business, and to improve the quality of life for their residents. Again, there is an uncomfortable disconnect here, between the local authority pension, which parks part of its fund in BT shares in order to preserve and grow value for its beneficiaries with low risk, and the necessarily more forward-looking council members and civil servants, who are trying to deal with the uncertainties of the future stemming from economic downturn and austerity. In some cases, their efforts might necessitate a path which avoids BT entirely, in conflict with the interests of BT shareholders, e.g., the pension fund.So, where would a forward-looking local authority with a bit of capital to invest (I know this in itself is a contentious assumption in the current climate) turn to reap the long-term benefits of the wave of investment in true fibre access which the country requires to keep pace with other economies in Europe and Asia?At the moment, nowhere. The handful of small companies out there actually trying to change the status quo are all privately funded, and it's difficult to envisage a conservative pension fund, particularly from the public sector, making a direct investment in such vehicles.However, what about a fibre infrastructure fund, seeded by private sector insurance/pension funds or a large family office, managed by an independent team of industry experts, in cooperation with delivery partners and a consortium of service providers, which could deliver long-term stable dividend streams, and even the potential of a liquidity event via public listing at some later date? It could be a single national fund, or several regional funds, as best aligns the investors and recipient projects.This is not a new idea, particularly. What I have in mind is not dissimilar at all from what the great team at Broadway Partners are working on, though my version would be more skewed to larger c[...]



One of the greatest sources of disappointment in life is our own unrealistic expectations. If you found yourself stuck at sea on a lifeboat with a tiger, you wouldn't expect it to suddenly adopt a vegan lifestyle just because doing so would save your ass. You wouldn't expect a bureaucrat to ever advocate less red tape. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas, and incumbent telco shareholders don't advocate cannibalising the assets they generously received through privatisation - assets which, through their eyes, have decades of life still left in them. People and institutions (which are made of people, well most of them anyway, with the possible exception of Goldman Sachs) will almost never give you what you want, apart from occasions when their self-interest coincides with yours.But some people never learn. You can't swing a dead router these days without hitting someone who thinks it's down to the government to solve the broadband problem. Without wanting to make this an overtly political post, does anyone really believe the government is best-placed to do that, when it seems to struggle to optimize the things it already does? I guess there could be a financial incentive, in the form of taxing under-utilized bandwidth on "ultrafast" broadband connections, but I hate to think of the implementation schedule. Whereas Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have all taken radical approaches to stimulating fibre deployment, the UK government's approach has been incrementalist, and based on its recent form in providing public funding for NGA, I'm not hugely encouraged, to say the least, though I would stop short of saying that the entire venture has failed to stimulate the economy - a not inconsiderable number of lawyers and consultants will no doubt be paying someone to dig swimming pools at their second homes this spring. Every little helps.So, inevitably, the focus of everyone's ire turns to BT. A few weeks back, at the FTTH Council Europe event in London, one panel I attended contained a great sound bite from a BT apparatchik, which was, "We think that if the really compelling applications which require fibre are still 10 years away, then we should wait until then to build the networks." He said this with a straight face, but his was the only one in the room, apart from his public affairs colleague, who seemed to quietly spit blood any time anyone else on the panel spoke.Waiting 10 years to start building networks which take 10 years to build means that we get the "networks of tomorrow" 10 years later than they are required. Okay, you and I know it's silly, and he probably knows it's silly too, but everyone's got to feed their kids, and we all end up spouting someone else's dogma at some point, gritting our teeth as we think about paying off credit cards, taking the family away somewhere nice, or building a loft extension.Then again, it's not silly at all, in light of my opening paragraph. I'll spare you a repeat of all the constraints on BT from a balance sheet perspective, but they are material, and the company has to manage the complex demands of shareholders, lenders, customers, and the regulator. Moreover, from its own perspective, and those of its shareholders, it would be cannibalising existing assets and crushing its own cash flows if it were much more aggressive in deploying true FTTP (how it could possibly be less aggressive, is an imponderable question).To borrow Mr. Livingston's analogy from several years back, would Ford shareholders back a £20bn investment program to upgrade all its plants to produce Ferraris, when people are still buying Fords? Probably not, unless north of 30% of the market started buying Ferraris instead of Fords, however, that would require someone to sell Ferraris in volume, and at the moment, there is no one on the UK broadband scene able to pose that [...]

Value perceptions


To the discerning blog-watcher, it's a pretty much tried and true generalisation that when a long-dormant blog suddenly springs back to life, there must be some sort of career or life hiccup underlying somewhere. I am far too discrete to say, but, let's put it this way - you're going to be hearing a lot more from me now, and I am in search of new opportunities and adventures, so don't hesitate to let me hear from you if you have anything interesting in mind.During my two years at CityFibre, one of the recurring assertions I heard from sceptics was that the UK is somehow an exceptional market, in which there is no scope for a competitive fibre-based infrastructure. I always vehemently disagreed with this view, which seemed invariably to be based on two perceptions:1) that the UK consumer has been ground down by decades of underinvestment in every category of infrastructure, and is now de-sensitized to such an extent that the barely acceptable passes as the norm. A logical extension of this argument is that, whatever is on offer from the two infrastructure incumbents is good enough, and anyway, where is the proof that there's a market out there for anything different, or, God forbid, even better? And if there is a market, where is the proof that consumers would pay more?;2) that the structure of pricing in the market is a natural barrier to entry, as consumers are willing to spend far more on a few pints in a ghastly West End pub on a night out than on an entire month's worth of broadband.I have some sympathy with Argument 2, which relates to the reality distortion field created by LLU economics, under which consumers have come to expect that "broadband" costs tuppence (with the first six months free!), yet blithely accept increases in POTS line rental charges at rates several times the level of consumer inflation, year in, year out. Perversely, the legacy service which has a precipitously declining perceived value, is the cost of entry to the broadband product, which is increasingly perceived as being indispensable to modern life, but still expected to be dirt cheap.I explained this situation to some Dutch friends recently, who shook their heads uncomprehendingly, and though I'm not a lawyer (I'd rather nail my privates to the floor), I believe such blatantly coercive product bundling is illegal in at least one EU country. Still, if it works and the majority don't complain, why tamper with the status quo?I've long believed that one way around this conundrum would be a consumer education campaign to encourage a "total cost of ownership" (TCO) view of the world. From conversations I've had with non-industry folk in the UK, it strikes me that most people in my non-scientific sample seem to disregard POTS line rental as some sort of necessary evil about which nothing can be done (if they even notice that they're paying it), and prefer to focus on what a great price they got on their broadband product, often complaining about the quality and reliability of it in almost the same breath.So, perhaps there are elements of both Arguments 1 and 2 at work here, after all, and the consumer has been thoroughly conditioned by the pricing policies of the Big 4 service providers, who have absolutely no incentive to change their marketing strategies. Hell, even disruptive newcomers Hyperoptic have latched onto this formula, building a mandatory telephony package into their products (or a £10 supplement for broadband only), presumably in order to keep their broadband pricing optically in line with market ranges. Frankly, if it's an established precedent in the market there for the taking, they'd be stupid not to do so.Therefore, if we take it as read that the UK consumer has been thoroughly conditioned to believe that broadband is a low-value commodity product, then the [...]

Caveat emptor


It seems an almost embarrassingly obvious joke to make, and so apologies if someone has beaten me to the punchline already, but it occurred to me while listening to the news this evening that, in a country where broadband products in some cases containing up to 100% copper can be marketed as "fibre optic" with very little public outrage, why are we surprised that "beef" products may contain horse meat? Complacency in one area of truth in advertising must surely bleed over into others, no? Surely what's good for the heifer is good for the stallion.

OTDR testing


Does this thing still work?

Surprise package


I was very pleased to receive these via DHL last Friday - the first high fiber chocolates in history. Thanks to all the good folks at Diffraction Analysis and Tactis!


Misadventures in asset management


A belated Happy New Year to whatever vestigial mega-uber value readers may remain out there. I hope 2012 brings you all you wish for, though personally I am trying to keep my wishes humble, in line with the New Austerity zeitgeist. As with every new year, I begin 2012 with good intentions of blogging more this year. It's not that I have nothing to say - quite the opposite - I am involved in some very interesting things, but sadly almost all of them are bound by strict non-disclosure obligations. Nevertheless, both this humble bloglet and the Memphibian both deserve more attention than they have received in recent months, so I will endeavour to do better.In terms of telecom, I miraculously made it almost all the way through 2011 without a single catastrophic service provider incident - up until December 30, that is. On that day, my HTC Desire HD handset decided to stop working. Not entirely, but the on/off button stopped responding, meaning that the handset was switched on but I could not activate the touchscreen. At this point I decided to visit an Orange shop to see if they could do anything for me. Being in The City, I stopped by the Moorgate shop, and the staff helpfully phoned the Orange customer care call centre for me. I spoke to an affable Geordie who was only too happy to order a replacement handset for delivery the next day. I told him that I was not at home, but rather was staying with family in the West End, and I asked if he could arrange delivery to one of the Orange shops on Oxford Street. That, as the old song goes, is when my heartaches began. The call centre man then asked me if I knew the postcode of the Orange shop where I would like the phone to be sent. Surprised, I answered, "No, just any shop on Oxford Street will be fine." There followed the sound of keyboard tapping, and I asked him if he was Googling for Orange shop locations. His answer was unclear, but after a few seconds he said, "89 Oxford Street." I said that was fine, and we agreed that I could collect my replacement handset there the next morning. I even received a confirmation by SMS.The next morning, I made my way to the Orange shop at 89 Oxford Street, with only one minor complication - the shop doesn't exist. Wandering down the road to the nearest Orange shop (at 155 - 157, for the record), I asked the puzzled staff if there had ever been an Orange shop at No. 89. It felt a bit like a scene from "It's a Wonderful Life." I explained my predicament, and the friendly and helpful shop assistants put in another call to the mothership.When I asked how Orange could possibly ship a handset to a non-existent store, the very apologetic customer care person speculated that there must have been a "training issue" in the call centre. She said that the only thing to do was to allow the delivery to fail, then arrange delivery to another store. She then asked me for the postcode of the shop I was calling from. As the situation got more Kafka-esque, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure if I was still under contract with Orange, so I asked. "No, you're not under contract," came the reply. It was then that the penny dropped. I had visited two Orange shops and spoken to five Orange employees about needing a replacement for a handset which was clearly not the most current vintage, without anyone checking to see if I was a candidate for an upgrade or contract renewal. All the staff were knowledgeable and pleasant, but seemingly no one had the commercial killer instinct to upsell, or at least to try to retain a customer who was likely to be a bit disgruntled over being sent to a shop which only exists in a parallel universe. The Telco 2.0 team have written a number of very interest[...]

Nothing really matters, anyone can see, nothing really matters but FTTP


That's an appalling musical reference, but sadly it's the only tie-in I can think of to announce that I will be presenting at the FTTH Forum in Budapest on 9th November. (Edit: Okay, it's Friday at the end of a long week, and I conflated "Hungarian Rhapsody" with "Bohemian Rhapsody." My bad. In retrospect, perhaps I should have tried to invoke Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna.") My talk will broadly cover some of the points I raised here, but I'll mainly focus on CityFibre's strategy around a holistic view of fibre across an entire community, with buy-in from local government as the key bedrock upon which other developments rest. Our recent project in York is a compelling example of how this can work to create tremendous optionality for all stakeholders.

I'll also be speaking at the NextGen conference in Bristol on 15th November, covering broadly the same ground, but also revisiting some of the themes I covered in my previous NextGen appearance in Manchester two years ago (slides). As I tried to stress then, I expect there may be a large gap between the perceived value of fibre today (i.e., the tiresome "it's a better triple play") versus the "option value" of fibre as an enabler of applications and services we haven't even dreamt of yet.

As I've stated numerous times over the years, the flaw in the current structure of the "telecom industry" is that conventional telcos, as constituted today, will find it impossible to capture the benefits of those developments in a way which translates directly into "shareholder value." As such, they have limited incentive to invest in enabling the benefits of such innovation across an entire community. Ergo, I would argue that a strategy focused on "stakeholder value" is the appropriate framework for moving forward. Call it "A Unified Theory of Fibre."

If you're planning on being at either event, by all means stop by and say hello.

Joining the Rainbow Revolution


In a recent post, I alluded vaguely to my involvement in activities which aim to speed the delivery of fiber access in a couple of countries. One of those is the UK, where I am happy to say that over the past two months I have become a foot soldier in what I am tempted to call the UK's Rainbow Revolution. Beyond the most obvious evocation of the visible light spectrum as conveyed by optical fiber, the name also highlights the sad truth that many in the country have long been dreaming, mostly in vain, of a place, somewhere over the rainbow, where we someday find ourselves with broadband infrastructure which is something more than "just good enough." Most pertinently, I like the name because, just as the rainbow is a spectrum of different colors, each with its own character and place in the broader palette, what I see taking shape in the UK fiber market (at long last) is a range of players, all broadly in pursuit of the same goals, but operating in very different parts of the spectrum.For my own part, I am now devoting pretty much all my time to corporate development work with CityFibre Holdings. The term "corporate development" is probably overly vague to most people, but my role involves a number of aspects, including business and commercial strategy, service provider relations, vendor relations, financial market relations, as well as collaboration with pretty much every part of the business. It is fascinating and enjoyable, and Greg and Mark have assembled a team and investor group which is a genuine pleasure to work with. We are currently in the middle of a re-branding process, but suffice it to say that we will be much more visible in the coming months as we unveil our plans. In the course of analyzing the market and how it is (finally) changing, I have been fortunate to come into contact with some of the other emerging players in the space. I have met Boris and Dana from Hyperoptic, who are hugely impressive and have a really interesting business model for deploying fiber in high-density MDUs, which I guess I would describe as "hyper-local." At the other end of the rural-urban spectrum is Matthew Hare and his equally impressive, equally hyper-local Gigaclear. I think both of these companies are very well-placed to succeed in their respective market segments. What has surprised me in studying their approaches, and it speaks volumes about the early state of development of the UK market, is that there are no visible competitors to them in their chosen niches. And just this morning, we see the arrival of a new entity to the market, BroadwayPartners. Led by the tireless and talented Adrian Wooster and supported by an equally-talented team (each of whom I have met in various contexts), it looks to me, as a total outsider, as though they are harnessing the network of interest built around INCA's important demand aggregation efforts to a corporate structure which can plan, finance and implement projects in conjunction with local (presumably rural) communities. Based on my observations, this is a critical element which has been missing at the local level, and I think the market can only benefit from the arrival of such an entity. I am also keen to learn more about their plans for a national investment fund. This is the sort of development I have discussed with people in a number of countries, but so far this concept has remained just that, with one notable exception. I'm more than pleased to see someone rising to the challenge in the UK, and this alone is a pretty good measure of how things are changing. The gauntlet is now being laid at the feet of the investment community, and I think the opport[...]

Bad telecom metaphors in religious propaganda, part 1



From what I remember of my early years Sunday School experience, I think they really mean "upload," surely. But my burning questions are: is there traffic shaping or throttling involved, what's my SLA in the event of a network outage, and does the Almighty's Skynet operate at the same frustratingly slow speeds and high levels of asymmetry that we suffer down here on Earth? If not, maybe He can help us sort out our broadband infrastructure problems.



In the age of the ubiquitous cameraphone, there is a lot of nonsense and noise, but sometimes even fairly mundane situations provide us with priceless opportunities to document profound unintended irony. Close examination of the placard below the larger picture shows that the text states "Orange fire evacuation procedure for meeting rooms." This made my day.


Fiber envy


Hats off to friend and colleague Herman Wagter (and Dirk van der Woude, who makes a cameo appearance via video conference link) for this recent appearance on PBS' "Need to Know" program. I couldn't agree more with the views he expresses here. It's a powerful measure of the sense of frustration experienced by broadband consumers in the US that PBS would see a case for viewing the UK as a success story based on more competition and lower prices, while, conversely, many I know in the UK would gladly pay more for a better product. You get what you invest in.

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Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Welcome to the gig time


Enfant terrible HKBN's press release today heralding 10,000 users of its 1Gbps service started me riffing on "catchy" marketing tag lines for a one gig service:

"Think gig"
"Gagging for a gig"
"Go to work on a gig"
"Gigs might fly"
"Welcome to the gig time"
"The gig chill"
"The gig bang"
"The Gig Society"

Feel free to join in...

What ever happened to...?


My friend and eComm founder, Lee Dryburgh, recently made a very brave post, in which he sought to explain the personal background to his recent relative inactivity. It makes for tough reading, and it's not the sort of thing many people would be comfortable publishing into the wide world, but Lee's no ordinary guy, and I admire him tremendously for writing it. It made me think that perhaps I should also attempt to explain my neglect of this blog and its (probably) declining, but loyal, readership. It's not that I don't love you all - it's just that life has been challenging over the past three years. In summer 2008, my seemingly promising career was disrupted by the unravelling of Merrill Lynch. My role in the PCG principal investing unit was all about developing new investment opportunities, but with c.$10bn in (mostly) illiquid assets across its various principal investing groups, the Thundering Herd was obviously going to be in run-off mode (things obviously got much worse from there), so onto the street I went. At the time, I put a brave face on it, saying that I needed "THE job," not "A job." This was a nice sentiment, but hugely overly optimistic, as I soon discovered through spending nearly two years engaged in an effort to launch a new fund. When we began, it seemed unthinkable that investors would not be falling over one another to back such a high-quality team, but for whatever reason, we struggled terribly. In retrospect, I should have left at the end of 2009, when the cash burn was still just about bearable, but I believed in the people and the proposition. Most of all, I believed I was doing the best thing to secure my family's financial situation in the long run - after all, I was a founding partner in a fund which was bound for greatness, right? Ultimately, as the launch date approached, it became clear that the economics were not going to be anything like what I had assumed. After two years of cash burn, rather than committing to something punitive which would have made me unhappy from day one, I decided to walk away. This was an extremely difficult choice to take, and it was an embittering experience, but I determined that I would be better off taking my chances alone. During all this process, my marriage collapsed in August 2009, with all the pain, regret, disruption and stress unavoidable in such a situation, especially where young children are involved. I moved out, we sold our home, all very devastating stuff. As these things go, I think it has worked out about as well as one could hope, but it's been extremely tough for everyone, and one can never be absolutely sure whether the course taken was really the best one. I guess our kids will give us some idea when they're much older.Beyond the emotional trials of all the above, it has genuinely been financially devastating. I had to laugh a couple of years back, when Andy Abramson referred to me in a post as "Mr. Money," or something along those lines. "If they only knew." Without the support of family and friends along the way, I'm not at all sure where I would be today. This kind of crisis also allows one to separate true friends from those who fall into other categories. Unsurprisingly, I now consider myself to have far fewer friends.So, leaving the fund in December last year, I had to confront the lack of a Plan A, and began having interviews with various parts of the financial world. Unfortunately, these have largely consisted of time-wasters and boneheads: a team looking to recruit a TM[...]

Who said there ain't no free?


On the off chance that you haven't seen this mentioned elsewhere, drop whatever it is you're doing and head over to the Diffraction Analysis site to claim your free copy of "A World of Fiber," penned by my friend and associate Benoit Felten, a.k.a. "The Godfiber." Hurry while supplies last!

Wednesday wondering


I know there are a lot of sell-side analysts, buy-side analysts, fund managers, industry analysts, consultants, IR and PR people who read this humble bloglet, and I would like to ask for your valued feedback on a question. Across the broad TMT supersector in Europe, which companies do you think have the best IR/PR/analyst relations functions, and why? Conversely, which have the worst, and why? I value your views and guarantee complete confidentiality. So, hollah at me!

Tuesday trivia - Thomas Watson on the development of the telephone


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